Revealed: The Agency That Dissented

Let's solve a mystery: which government agency warned the Environmental Protection Agency that its rule-making process on greenhouse gas emissions could have "serious economic consequences?"

According to an administration official, the comments, which were collected by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the EPA, came from staff at the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy.

If you think the Office of Advocacy's job is to be an advocate for small businesses, you'd be right. In fact, the OOA is a Congressional chartered, independent agency within the SBA.  Its director is a political appointee, and its staff are not career members of the civil service. Many of them have been at the job for years, and it would not be uncharitable to assume that they're familiar with the language used by corporate America.

The previous "chief advocate" left before President Bush's term expired, and Bush installed a temporary chief to manage the transition. That chief -- Shawne McGibbon -- remains in charge of the OOA and its staff. According to this directory, regulatory reviews are handled by someone named Joseph M. Johnson. Johnson once served as a research fellow at the Mercatus Institute at George Mason University, an organization that is well respected and takes a skeptical view of government regulation.

A spokesman for the agency did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

To sum: a small independent agency chartered to help small businesses was responsible for a single dissenting warning transmitted to the EPA by the Obama administration. No other government agency shared the same concerns.